Congress Votes to Extend Rohrabacher-Farr Through April
December 12, 2016 | Steph Sherer
On Friday, the U.S. Senate approved H.R. 2028, a continuing resolution that will fund the federal government through April 28, 2017. The House approved the bill earlier on Thursday. The continuing resolution includes the Rohrabacher-Farr language from last year's Department of Justice's spending package, thereby keeping the protection in place for another four months before Congress must consider it again.
The Rohrabacher-Farr amendment is arguably the most important current federal protection for medical cannabis patients and others abiding by state medical cannabis laws. The amendment has been upheld in several federal cases, most prominently in U.S. vs. McIntosh. In that decision, the judge held that prosecutions against those claiming to be in compliance with state medical cannabis laws cannot proceed unless the federal government could prove there was a violation of state law. However, the judge also said that the protection only is valid if the amendment remains in effect.
With the appointment of Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) to be the next Attorney General, the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment could be more important than ever before. The combination of the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment along with the 2013 Cole Memo urging U.S. Attorneys to deprioritize prosecuting against those obeying state cannabis laws have been successful in substantially reducing the number of raids against dispensaries and cultivators, Sessions could repeal the Cole Memo guidance at any point. The Rohrabacher-Farr amendment is binding law, although it must be reauthorized every year.
That means the "ceasefire" against patients has been extended through April, but patient advocates will need to work to ensure that provision makes it way into the next the appropriations bill. Congress will likely debate and vote on the next appropriations bill late April, which means that you can lobby your Congressional offices directly at ASA's 2017 Unity Conference and Lobby Day, April 7-11.